With the writers' strike on (though maybe for not much longer, fingers crossed!), I've taken to scouring the cable grid for movies I haven't seen yet -- hopefully on IFC or Turner Classics or someplace else where there won't be commercials -- and DVRing the shit out of them. A couple I've caught in the last few days, plus one in theatres:
The Anniversary Party (2001)
Not a happy movie, and not a cohesive movie either, but it has its moments. A lot of the small moments involved in this party full of couples who each have their own relationship to the central couple (Jennifer Jason Liegh and Alan Cumming, who co-directed) ring true, and some of the performances -- Jennifer Beals, Gwyneth Paltrow, John Benjamin Hickey -- are quite good. Then there's Jane Adams, who...I know she has her fans, but she's been playing the same role for TEN YEARS now. It probably wasn't as glaring back in '01 when this was released, but I've long since lost my patience for it. Two of my favorite performances were given by actors who have almost completely disappeared since then. We all know that Phoebe Cates is essentially retired -- she plays a character awfully similar to herself here, a woman who's given up her career to support her movie star husband (played by her real movie star husband Kevin Kline, see?). But she's remarkably good, particularly once everyone gets high on ecstasy and all the shit starts going down. For all the shit performances Kevin Kline has been giving in the last ten years, I'm fairly confident in saying we're getting a bum deal. And what every happened to Matt McGrath? See, you don't even know who I mean. He played that annoying neurotic ex-boyfriend of Justin Theroux's in Greg Berlanti's Broken Hearts Club, and I thought McGrath made him improbably likeable. He's in this movie for like two seconds and then he's never been seen again. Total pity.
Sense and Sensibility
I know. And Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet freak like me -- and an Ang Lee supporter to boot -- has never seen this movie? I've tried, but it never really took until this week. It's a slow starter, sure, but once it gets going, it's pretty fantastic. I expected it to be a lot lighter and frillier, but it packs an emotional punch. So much of the credit goes to Emma Thompson both for the lead performance and for writing the script (for which she won the Oscar and Golden Globe and gave that hysterical round of speeches). . One thing, though: whose bright idea was it to cast a boy in a Kirsten-Dunst-from-Interview With The Vampire wig as the youngest Dashwood sister? This isn't the kind of movie that can accommodate such weirdness. I suppose it...wait, that was a girl? Yikes. Good movie.
Jason sums it all up way better than I can, but I'll give you the highlights. It's pretty much the same drama Woody Allen's been making ever since Crimes and Misdemeanors, with regular people allow their social inferiority complexes and social climbing ambitions to whisk them away into murder and...more murder. Not a whole lot new to offer in this film. But Colin Farrell's really good while Ewan McGregor...can't handle an English accent. I'm sorry, but he just can't. You know who else sounds totally uncomfortable with an English accent is Tom Wilkinson. Who is English! I'm thinking he's been playing an American for too long. The best thing about the movie, by far, is Clare Higgins as the mother. She's like a boozier, brassier Julie Walters, and she needs to be in a lot more movies.